As pharmaceutical companies relentlessly keep pumping out new medications for any and all sorts of diseases and ailments, so too does the risk to the consumer increase from negative drug interactions. Medication errors can happen at any point to anyone at home or at a health care facility and are a type of adverse drug event.

The scope of the problem is realized when the fact that there are over 10,000 different prescription medications that can be prescribed is coupled with the reality that almost one-third of all adults in this country are required under doctors’ orders to take five or more medications at a time.

This makes for an environment that is ripe for cultivating adverse drug events. An ADE is essentially any adverse reaction experienced by a patient as a direct result of consuming a particular medication. Not surprisingly, almost 700,000 patients have to visit the emergency department for ADE related issues and about 100,000 of them are serious enough that they require further hospitalization.

An ADE does not necessarily mean that an error was committed by any person; however, medication errors which are a type of ADE occur as a result of an error that is committed at any point from when a prescription is written out until it is dispensed to the prescription recipient.

It is estimated that nearly half of these types of ADEs are completely and entirely preventable. Some medication errors do not cause any harm to the patient either because they were caught early on before the patient ever received the medicine. These types of medication errors are categorized as potential ADEs.

There are a number of medication errors that are experienced by patients that are caused by adverse drug interactions that cannot be retroactively prevented. Such medication errors are classified as non-preventable ADEs and are more colloquially referred to as medication side effects.

Source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, “Medication Errors,” AHRQ, accessed June 15, 2015